>> this emanates from the new deal which, you know, was a response to the emergency of the great depression. and, obviously, 30 years later john kennedy comes to the white house, there's no great depression. and so the depressing problem for american liberalism at that time and for john ken key was to update liberalism for an age of affluence. and it was no longer the immediate post-war era. so liberalism by the early 19 1960s was still pointed at the problems of dpreg and the immediate -- depression and the
immediate post-war era. and so kennedy's major task was to update the creed to deal with a society of affluence in a changing cold war. and so that's -- this is kennedy's task. it was the liberal project of the early 1960s. how do you update liberalism when you don't have a depression, and josef stalin is dead? the wilderness years of american liberals from really 1965, 1966 through the age of reagan, liberals lost faith in the american project. i mean, that's just how i would sum it up. and it's understandable. i mean, the tunnel multiof the civil rights era, watching your own countrymen and country women beat african-americans in the street and beat civil rights activists in the street, and watching on television the horrors of vietnam, you know, a war that lyndon johnson himself never wanted, that the american
people never wanted. i mean, those two seminal events so enrage liberals, and understandably so, that they begin to question the basic fairness and decency of their own country. and i argue that american liberals in sum, not all, begin to have a more radical critique of american society than what franklin roosevelt had or john kennedy had. instead of, you know, piecemeal reform they, you know, today want more radical approaches to, um, to change america for the better. and, you know, and so when middle america feels that their country is being demeaned and attacked, and their own values are being demeaned and attacked by, well, the term is appropriate, liberal elites meaning, you know, upper middle
class, educated, higher income liberals who take over the democratic party in the late '60s. the term liberal elites has been used and is used as a way to pilary liberals, but there's some truth to it at the same time. middle american voters who had heretofore been the rank and file of the democrat party, they turned against their own party, and they leave their party because their party took on a different tone towards their country and towards them. jimmy carter is, you know, look, who doesn't laud and admire jimmy carter? he's the greatest ex-president in american history, period. jimmy carter came into office, i would argue, wholly unprepared -- [laughter] one-term governor of georgia for the extraordinary burleds of the presidency -- burdens of the presidency. but probably even more important than that is the civil war that's going on in the
democratic party. and jimmy carter, i think you could argue, was a new democrat before there was an institutional structure. and it just goes to show that one person, right, cannot change a party. you need institutions. you need to have allies. and the democratic party was at war in the late 1970s. it was the old-style true believers who would claim we lose elections because we're not liberal enough versus jimmy carter and a scattering of, you know, maybe hubert humphrey who passed away during the carter presidency who understood somehow that the democratic party had lost its finger on the pulse of the american people. and so carter, and i have a chapter on carter's aempty at welfare reform -- attempt at welfare reform. welfare was an incredibly unpopular program across the country. carter wanted to reform it. this is something that bill clinton does in 1994 and was lauded for it.
carter wanted to reform welfare, the democrats who controlled the congress sink welfare reform, it doesn't even get out of the committee. and is this partially carter's ham-handedness, his inability to deal with congress? yes. but it also shows you a democratic party fundamentally divided among itself. it was in its interests to support its own president, and jimmy carter's bill that he introduced on national television that was one of the major hallmarks of his '76 campaign, it never even saw -- it never even got a vote. liberals didn't have the ability to reform themselves. american liberalism's low point when reagan comes into office. liberals just cannot begin to understand how the country of roosevelt and kennedy could have elected ronald reagan. on one hand, it reinforces,
reemphasizes their alienation from their own country and believing that americans are no longer capable of embracing these ideas of social equality and economic opportunity and social justice. so, you know, the idea of ray -- reagan in the white house just sends them into fits of fury. at the same time, you have midwestern and southern democrats who look at, you know, the reagan revolution, and they take the really hard steps of understanding that american liberals have lost the pulse of middle america. and what they do is they build an infrastructure, an organization, a set of ideas, of moderate liberal ideas that can retake the center of american politics. and that's what the last couple of chapters are about, is about the rise of the democratic leadership council, the rise of bill clinton. and this didn't just happen.
i mean, there were, you know, a decade of institution building that went into building policy ideas, building an apparatus so that these moderate lib liberals -- they're not just moderates, they're moderate liberals -- can take tear party back from what are called new politic liberals, these upper middle class, highly educated liberals who take a more radical critique of american society. clinton is an interesting figure because he's from arkansas, he's from middle america. in his gut he understands the sort of democrats that democrats need to win in order to govern. at the same time, this is someone who has an elite education, who worked on the mcgovern campaign himself. clinton has a foot in both worlds, right? he has a foot in the new politics/liberal world, and he has a foot in the moderate democratic leadership council world. so the first couple of years of the clinton administration, i
mean, aside from a few policy exceptions which reduces the deficit which plays a significant role in the booming economy of the 199 0s, it was a fiasco. you know, because of the new politics clinton who governed, and it was the new politics liberals who were, you know, throughout the bureaucracy of the white house and the west wing. and so it, you know, clinton loses the congress for the first time since the 1950s, republicans take control. now, there were some longer forces at work, you know, especially in the south to cause that. but clinton's first two years, you know, were just a disaster. and what he learned, right, and this is to clinton's credit, he goes, you know, he did this in arkansas too. his first, you know, it was a two-year term as governor of arkansas until they changed the
constitution. his first term as governor he did not govern as a moderate democrat. he governed as a new politics liberal, and they voted him out. [laughter] and so what he learned after 1994 is to go back to his dlc roots to, you know, to intentionally, you know, govern as a moderate democrat. and it's just no accident that, you know, clinton governing at what he called the vital center which has a different meaning according to arthur schlessinger, and it does, you know, but clinton meant it, you know, because most americans support a modicum of liberal activism. social security, medicare, pell grants, i mean, most americans, i mean, you see this in electoral results, right? most americans, today want these program -- they want these programs. even when republicans start to, you know, go after them, even republican voters, you know, sort of rise up in protest.
and so, you know, once clinton gets through those first two years, he governs as a moderate, and it's, you know, especially in the domestic sphere it's a largely successful presidency and one that, i mean, heck, it promised to end the national debt. he is and newt beginning -- he and newt gingrich had a secret deal at one time about how to sort of, you know, get rid of the national debt and to begin to end the culture wars that were plaguing, still continue to plague washington to this day. i mean, liberalism, i would argue, is in the best position it has been since the kennedy era because of the institutions and because their opposition so absolutely just flailing. they don't understand that the american people, generally speaking, are not interested in their solutions. they talk about ronald reagan in 2013 exactly like democrats
talked about franklin roosevelt in 1980s. the problem is it's not 1980 anymore, for the democrats in 1980 it was no longer 1936, you know? and so they're stuck in the past. they're looking to a political idol and a set of political answers that answered questions from another generation. and so, you know, if i put my -- i mean, i put my money on liberals dominating the national landscape, because they are the ones at least, they may not have all the right answers, but they are looking at the right questions. they live in 2013. conservatives are living in the 1980s. >> for more information on booktv's recent visit to erie, pennsylvania, and the many other cities visited by our local content vehicles, go to c-span.org/localcontent. >> this fall booktv is marking our 15th anniversary, and this
weekend we look back at 2005. in 2005 the national book critics circle award for general nonfiction went to svetlana alex yo slip. her book, voices for chernobyl, recounts the nuclear reactor accident that in the ukraine in 1986. she talked about writing about catastrophes in 2005. spution. [speaking russian] >> translator: i'm not interesting in information which serves more and more as the foundation for our civilization. i think that information has discredited itself as a way of knowing human beings. [speaking russian]
>> translator: what i'm interested in is human feelings and human turmoil. this is what interests me, is to be able to try and make some kind of a guess about what's going on inside of people and what has meaning for them can and what causes them to suffer. [speaking russian] >> translator: right after chernobyl happened when i was making my first trips to that region, i saw dozens if not hundreds of journalists there, and i said to myself, those guys
are going to put their books out really fast. but the book that i'm going to write is going to take years and, indeed, i worked on the book for ten years. [speaking russian] >> translator: and when i speak of these journalists who i felt were going to turn their books out quickly, i'm talking about books that were filled with facts, information, medical information. because try as soviet authorities might to suppress that kind of information, nonetheless, it did get out, as well as that event, chernobyl gave rise to anti-communist books, anti-russian books, books against the atom. but the most important things that we needed to learn from that event took more time to emerge. >> over the next few weeks,
booktv -- now in its 15th year on c-span2 -- is looking back at authors, books and publishing news. and you can watch all of the programs online at booktv.org. >> next on booktv, war correspondent scott anderson talks about team lawrence and the involvement of britain, france, russia and the u.s. in the middle east during the middle century. this is about an hour, 20. [applause] >> thanks very much. thank you, sherman, for that introduction. >> and what i've asked scott to do is to give his own autobiography to ground us in the linear ethic of what the world is. >> yeah. i'll just talk briefly on that. my, i was raised overseas, and my father was with a.i.d. in east asia, so i actually grew up in asia, really didn't spend any time in the states until came here just to go to highsc